Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Facebook threats might be free speech

Fellow angry dad Dan Brewington served about 3 years in an Indiana prison for his blog complaining about the family court judge and psychologist who took his kids away. It seemed obvious to me that he was just trying to hold them accountable for their unjust and incompetent actions. The prosecutor claimed that his behavior could be perceived as threatening. I think that he is currently awaiting action on a US Supreme Court petition, but he is very unlikely to succeed.

The Supreme Court hates family court cases, but they like free speech cases, and it just decided to hear a case on Facebook threats, as I mentioned in June:
Another free speech case involves the question of what constitutes a threat on Facebook. The facts are pretty hairy. Anthony Elonis was convicted of making threats against his estranged wife and an FBI agent. His posts said things like, "I'm not going to rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts."

Soon he moved on to suggest that he might make "a name" for himself with a school shooting. "Hell hath no fury like a crazy man in a kindergarten class. The only question is ... which one?"

At that point, a female FBI agent paid him a visit, which provoked a post in which he said that he'd had to control himself not to "slit her throat, leave her bleeding from her jugular in the arms of her partner."

At Elonis' trial, the judge instructed the jurors that to convict, they had to conclude that this was not merely exaggeration. His Facebook posts needed to be statements that a reasonable person would interpret as a serious expression of an intention to inflict bodily injury. Elonis contended that he was just mimicking rap songs — indeed, he often linked to songs with his post. He argued that he should not be convicted without actual proof that he intended to threaten, intimidate or harm.

The intent standard that Elonis argued for might make it much more difficult to win a conviction for making illegal threats. But whatever rule the justices come up with, observes University of Virginia law professor Leslie Kendrick, it will likely apply not just to Facebook and Twitter, but to all forms of communication — including people speaking face to face or publishing in the newspaper. In other words, says Kendrick, when crafting a rule, the justices will ask if the standard "is going to chill people who engage in speech that is borderline but ultimately protected."

Protected, that is, by the First Amendment guarantee of free speech. Most court experts seem to believe that Elonis may win because of the culture of today's social media. "The context of rap music these days suggests that what Elonis put out there really isn't all that unusual for what's going on on Facebook and what's going on in the popular culture," says professor William Marshall of the University of North Carolina School of Law.

After all, the current Supreme Court may be viewed as conservative, but it has, with little or no dissent, already upheld a fair amount of "fringe speech" — whether it's crush videos, demonstrations at military funerals or the sale of violent video games to kids.

Not everyone, however, agrees that the Facebook threat case is in the same category. Former Solicitor General Gregory Garre notes that Elonis' posts "ticked off all the boxes" — domestic violence, school shootings, violence against a federal officer. Garre says he "wouldn't be surprised if [Elonis' Facebook posts] struck the justices as something very problematic."
So I guess that this is a borderline case under current court precedents.

Brewington did not post anything about slitting anyone's throat. I do not agree with posting such hostility, altho I have not seen the context so I cannot really judge. If someone posted a comment on this blog about wanting to slit someone's throat, I would delete the comment.

Nevertheless we need a strong Supreme Court statement in favor of free speech, as long as honest men like Brewington are being prosecuted for merely using the internet to hold public officials accountable for their bad actions.


Anonymous said...

The underlying problem here is people putting themselves in positions where others have the power to destroy your life. How many people have gone through breakups or divorce and said the following? "I'd like to kill that so and so!" "I wish that so and so were dead!" "I'm going to kill you!" Homicidal and suicidal ideation are very common in breakups and divorce, especially when there are kids involved or significant losses are encountered (financial loss, parental alienation, purposeful or accidental transmittal of an STD, property loss, being left with significant debt, social alienation, emptied bank accounts, etc).

What underlies many of the most hateful comments made online are seriously nefarious actions made on the part of the "supposed victim". In other words, the "supposed victim" did something to provoke or incite the response from the actual victim, leaving the actual victim with few avenues of recourse - thinly veiled threats or overt threats, or suffering in complete silence.

I have personally been harmed in some of the ways described above and would love nothing better than to (not going to write it here, cause I'd most certainly go to prison). It took me years to overcome the hatred and bitterness, which is, believe it or not, a common psychological outcome of divorce.

While posting these thoughts online is highly inadvisable, in the middle of a psychologically induced mental/emotional breakdown, people make rash, often regrettable choices. They say and do things they normally would never say or do. Quite often, it is the actions of the "supposed victim" that brought the actual victim to this dark place in their lives. If we chose to send people to prison for these rash words, we're going to need millions of new prison cells.

The real takeaway is this: Never give anyone any significant level of legal, emotional, psychological, physical, financial or spiritual power over your life. By conducting your life this way, you will never suffer the kind of emotional trauma that leads to such rash actions and/or words.

Marriage is the number one way in which your life can be destroyed by another. Depending on the state, cohabitation can be just as damaging.

I'm a MGHOW (man going his own way) and regularly advise men on the often disastrous consequences of marriage and cohabitation. I encourage all men to carefully analyze the many ways in which your life can be destroyed through cohabitation and marriage. By underestimating the consequences, hundreds of thousands of men's lives, in the US alone, are destroyed every single year.

George said...

More and more men are coming to your conclusions.

Anonymous said...

My Plea to All Men:

Dear men, do not get married. Legally, you have but one power play in a relationship. What's that play? The ability to walk away. If you give away that card, you will forever regret it. Why would you ever give away your only power card? Doing so is suicide. Doing so gives the other person (the succubus) complete control over your future. Please, please men, don't get married. Live together, in a state free from palimony, just don't get married.

What's the one way in which a woman removes all men's power in a relationship? Marriage. By signing the marriage contract, men give away all of their power. They even talk about this in the bible.

Men - keep your power. Keep in your hand the ability to walk away unscathed at any point you so choose. Women will respect your for that. Feminists, anti-feminists, white knights and captain-save-a-hos will hate you for it. In other words, don't sign a contract that gives another, should they so chose, the power to destroy your life. What's that contract? The marriage contract. Do Not Do It! DO NOT DO IT!

That hole between women's legs might contain an incurable STD, an unwanted pregnancy, or a false rape conviction. Think carefully, boys. It's just a warm, potentially disease ridden, life destroying cavity in someone else's body. You can get all that you need sexually through a good imagination, porn and fapping. Women are not the answer to men's happiness. In fact, more often than not, women are the demise of good men. DO NOT DO IT!